May 5th, 2010, 8:24 am
If you asked me the chances of the Sharks taking a 3-0 lead on the Red Wings in this series, I would have put the chances of that well south of 5%. The Wings are healthy, seasoned, and contain some of the best talent the league has to offer. But for some reason, the ultimate chokers, the San Jose Sharks, have managed to come from behind in every single game and win. I feel like I’m delirious. Who put this lovely mixture of crank, LSD, and OxyContin into my breakfast cereal? It’s FAN-tastic.
Last night was a come-from-behind to trump all others, because the Sharks were down by two goals this time, and in the third period to boot. If you go back to our conference semis preview where Doug and I were trying to convince each other the Sharks could win, one of the things I said was “Jimmy Howard can be beat.” If I were to pick one major problem with the Wings game, it would be that. Yeah, there’s been some low turnovers by the Wings that have led to extended cycles and scoring chances. But that Logan Couture goal last night, while heads-up and tricky, should not have gone in the net. We’ve seen Nabby give up that goal before, and rightly excoriated him. Howard, while certainly not the only reason why the Wings are in a unbelievable 3-0 hole, is not exactly baling water as fast as the others.
I do want to talk about the OT goal for a minute, because it does seem to illustrate two problems the Wings have had. One is Howard (series SV% = 0.886). It’s very surprising to me that he was that far out of position when Marleau received Joe’s All-World pass. And it was all-world: perfect timing, perfect speed for Marleau to shoot it on net, right on the tape. Just a thing of beauty, and every bit as good as that spin-around backhand pass to Marleau that has made all of those highlight reels. The second is the defense. Every defensemen knows that on a 2-on-1 you keep your stick in the passing lane. Brian Rafalski, for reasons unknown, seemed to be directing traffic, conducting a tiny invisible symphony, or maybe just trying to scratch an itch on his calf. The blade of his stick was nowhere near the lane to Marleau.
It also perfectly illustrates something good for the Sharks – JOE THORNTON IS SHOOTING. Sakes alive, what a wonderful world we live in! You think Rafalski would even consider taking the shooting lane if Joe hadn’t scored earlier, and hadn’t picked up his shot rate in the series? Joe averaged well under 2 shots per game in the regular season, and is over 3 shots per game in this series. Even though he was only credited for one shot last night, which happened to be the goal, his willingness to direct the puck at the net (he took 6 shots in game two, and missed 5) is yet another reason why the Sharks are winning.
Even with all of these good things, the Sharks are still not done. Not by a long shot. Let’s say they take a game off, lose game 4, come home, and Detroit wins a squeaker. That could easily happen, in which case my ass will be in full production of masonry products. In my head, I estimated the chances of the Sharks winning the series after game two a little better than 50%. Now, I put their chances at around 75-80%. It ain’t over folks. But the best thing about it is, we know the Sharks don’t think it’s over either.
New podcast will be posted tonight.